PositiveAll About Romance... all the characters are incredibly strong, even the ones we meet only briefly. The story lends itself to a large cast, and each voice feels authentic, each character fully-formed. Character relationships are also very well-developed; Poppy and Alex have a really raw, emotional connection. There’s also the fact that the chemistry between them is PALPABLE and very sexy. Their relationship is a tender, aching love that is slowly revealed throughout the story and events from the past, and present ... Though I was initially skeptical about the switching between time periods which forms the novel’s basic structure, it really works for the story and it feels organic to the narrative as it unfolds. It also increases tension for the reader as the history of the characters unwinds and small details come into focus ... The tone of the book took me a little by surprise, as it was quite heavy at times. I kind of expected some light angst, but the book has a really deep emotional core. It still has some wonderfully funny moments, but I was definitely a little taken aback by how intense it is. I also found the pacing to be a little off as the story enters its third act. The resolution doesn’t feel as final as I’d like, either, with some of the roadblocks seemingly remaining unresolved ... surprised me in a lot of ways, and while I had some issues with it, I would still definitely recommend it. Some of my favorite tropes are at work in this book – opposites attract and friends to lovers, just to name two. It’s a great read, and will definitely satisfy anyone who loves a good getaway.
Rachel Lynn Solomon
RaveAll About RomanceThe Ex Talk is a contemporary romance about a woman on the brink of thirty, trying to figure out how to fulfil her career aspirations without killing one of her unfairly hot coworkers or being way too dishonest. It’s an amazing rivals-to-lovers romance, with some serious depth and intense emotional range. I initially picked it up because I love fake-dating tropes and podcasts, and I was not disappointed ... I loved this book. I’m not cavalier with A grades, but this one really got me ... The Ex Talk is a really great, nuanced book that doesn’t feel cluttered or overstuffed – it’s exactly right. If you’re a fan of radio or podcasts, it will be an extra fun read to pick out all of the inside jokes.
MixedAll About RomanceWhile it has a strong hook and a sympathetic main character, the story is so loosely held together that it was a drag to get through. Despite that, it is a decent read if you can get invested, though I would not recommend it to anyone triggered by descriptions of sexual assault ... April is a winning protagonist, and while her actions are sometimes impossible to fathom, they feel honest to the character. Her friendships ring true, and her best friend/flatmate in particular is a really great secondary character. April’s development throughout the book is earned, and she comes to milestones in a realistic way ... I also liked that the ending was realistic; the story’s conclusion feels true to April’s journey ... The difficult subject matter of sexual assault is described in visceral, unflinching detail, which really conveys the seriousness of the heroine’s experiences. However, the book is marketed as a light-hearted rom-com-stroke-women’s fiction title, wherein there is a kooky deception, the ruse is uncovered, and there is a happily ever after. This isn’t that book – the fraud April undertakes is driven by extreme emotional distress and a feeling of ultimate rejection, by society, by men, and even by herself. While Pretending is well-written for the most part, this is not the light-hearted romance promised by the blurb ... While the premise seemed exciting, I found the execution to be a bit lacking. The thing that really brings my rating down is the way the book is structured; it jumps around in a truly strange way ... While in some books, this less traditional format might work, here, it made the novel seem scrambled. The book was also a bit longer than one might normally expect for the genre, and it felt bloated in some places.
RaveAll About RomanceIt’s the tale as old as time- boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy disappears for three years. Of course, it’s a little more complicated, seeing as the boy never told the girl he was a duke, and the girl rejected a kiss from the boy before he vanished ... The book was also surprisingly funny, which was very enjoyable to read. It’s not exactly a plot-heavy story – it’s very much character-driven – but the two characters it so heavily leans on are very strong ... Overall, The Duke Who Didn’t is a whimsical, fun read that any lover of historical romance and light-hearted love stories will devour in one sitting.
MixedAll About RomanceI liked a lot about the book, but the end was unsatisfying ... Melody’s friends are a little underwritten; they seem to be stock-character best friends who get drinks and hang out. I really liked Jane, just because she’s strongly – even though not entirely positively – characterized. Candace, Melody’s other friend, is a publicist, and that’s pretty much it, and their boyfriends are similarly bland and unremarkable. Weak secondary characters distract from the strong parts of the narrative, which lie in the workplace conflict and Melody’s chemistry with Nolan. The romance does play second fiddle to Melody’s work challenges, but it’s still one of the best parts of the book ... an enjoyable, fun read, with some really great moments. Melody is a strong point-of-view character, and her story is really interesting. The less polished parts of the book detracted from my enjoyment a little, but the book is still a fascinating introduction to the world of game creation and the culture that surrounds it, as well as a sweet, romantic story.